Lockport – Ice Fishing Sauger
Since moving to Manitoba, I’ve been exploring areas of the Red River. In particular, the area between Lockport, Manitoba, and north to the area referred to as ‘End of Main’ or ‘EOM’ as the locals call it. In summer, my target fish were the giant Red River Channel Cats found below the dam at Lockport . Goldeye were another species I targeted in the area. Now everything is frozen. Fish in abundance at this time of the year are Walleye, northern Pike and Sauger. For most anglers, the sole target species are the Greenbacks (walleye) that move in out of lake Winnipeg. On this day, I was in search of some fast action on ultralight gear. Like perch fishing, sauger can provide hours of non-stop action through the ice.
Sauger (Sander canadensis), the baby cousin of Walleye. They are, for the most part, smaller than Walleye, and usually much more plentiful. The easiest way to tell you have a Sauger vs a Walleye is the distinct spotting found on the dorsal fin of Saugers. Walleye don’t exhibit this in their appearance.
You’ll want to target these fish with many of the same methods and gear you would use to target walleye. They’re much less finicky, however, than their larger Yellow bodied relatives. I usually look no further than a simple jig and minnow setup. Minnows can be alive, dead, or dead and salted. My preference is salted minnows. There are two reasons for this. I’ve always found salted baits of any kind, whether organic or plastic, pique the interest of fish a little more. I don’t know why, but I guess you could compare it to the attraction salt has to livestock and wild animals alike. Salt blocks are used for many animals in both farming and hunting. The second reason, I find salted minnows last a little longer both on the hook and in the tub of minnows you buy.
I prefer to hook the minnow close to the tail, through the spine. In Manitoba, all angling must be done with barbless hooks. Hooking through the tough area of spine near the tail seems to keep the bait a little tighter on the hook. Optionally, you can put a small piece of elastic or a chunk of plastic grub bait on the hook after you have put the minnow on.
You can go with a straight jighead in any colour. If the water is murky and it’s a bright day, I’ll often start with a black jighead, which should be a little more visible to fish in the dirty water. Early and late in the day it might be useful to use a jig that glows, or has a small blade attached to help the fish find your lure.
Tipping any of these jigs is an effective means of targeting Sauger. Drop these down to the bottom and try to get it about 1-2 inches off the bottom. From here, you can either twitch the bait around, or just let it sit still, dead sticking and waiting for the fish to come along.
In most places, you’re allowed the option of using two rods while fishing. You can use this to your advantage by using small hard bodied baits with rattles inside them. When dropped into your hole, the jigging action causes the bait to rattle, which may call fish in to your spot. When fishing like this, keep an eye on your dead stick, as often times the rattle bait will call in the fish, while the minnow tipped jig is what they really want to eat.